Happy Valentines Day! To celebrate this day of love, our featured treasure of the month is the Western grebe – a bird whose courtship dances are elaborate and spectacular! In one display, called “rushing,” the pair race across the water side by side, with almost their whole body out of the water and their long necks arched.
The video below shows the exquisite “dance of the grebes”.
In BC there are about 200 breeding pairs, but in winter over 100,000 grebes make our coast their home. Western grebes breed on inland lakes north of Alaska in the summer. They spend the rest of their time on the coast, often in large flocks. They feed on invertebrates and fish by diving from the surface and spearing them underwater. They forage at night, when schools of herring come to the surface. Pairs build floating nests out of reeds, raising 3-5 young. The young ride on their parent’s backs shortly after hatching.
Soon we will see many seabirds, gulls, and visiting eagles assemble along the shores for the yearly herring spawn that begins in March. The Western grebe is one of those who enjoys the bounty of this highly anticipated event that is so important for our marine ecosystem.
The Western grebe pictured above was found on Hornby Island in 1994.